1889 - 1896
Merritt Manufacturing Company
The Merritt was a fairly successful brand despite being on the market for less than a decade. It's a style of typewriter that does not utilize a keyboard but rather an index. Index typewriters were a popular alternative at the time to keyboard typewriters because their fewer parts made them more affordable, and because the keyboard itself was still a fairly new invention that many people hadn't quite mastered. For these reasons it was marketed as "The People's Type-Writer."
The Merritt was invented by Mortimer George Merritt (1859 - 1941). He began working on it as early as 1888 which was when he applied for its patent. Ads began circulating for the Merritt also in 1888. Then, in 1889, its patent was finally awarded (patent no.421,183).
Merritt typewriters were produced in Springfield, Massachusetts at the Merritt Manufacturing Company which was owned by Mortimer and his brothers Charles E. (1861 - 1889) and Henry W. (1856 - 193?). However, by 1893, at a World's Fair, Mortimer was "pushing the Densmore typewriter to the front in his usual energetic style." The Densmore was a typewriter brand which was part of the Union Typewriter Company (Union was a trust that Merritt Manufacturing was also a part of) and Merritt Manufacturing was contracted to produce 10,000 Desnmores sometime prior to October of 1892. Densmore eventually bought the Merritt factory and renamed it the Densmore Typewriter Company. The Merritt may have been produced there briefly though there is no direct evidence of how long. Based on old advertisements, the Merritt may have been produced into the mid 1890s.
The earliest Merritts weren't stamped with their name across the front. This cosmetic change was added shortly later. These typewriter were advertised for just $15. All versions produced 78 characters delivered by a steel type arranged in a linear upstrike fashion (a.k.a. a blindwriter). Merritts were designed with a double-shift mechanism. Inking was achieved via a pair of rollers. Merritts also had a type alignment system similar to Yosts.
There were several selling agents, among which were Lyon Manufacturing Company, Gormully & Jefferey Manufacturing Company, J.A. Spence & Brothers. None of these, nor any other agent produced a single Merritt typewriter. They simply sold them. Merrits were sold internationally, too.
The more interesting ad that I found for the Merritt dates to 1901. It ran in the Los Angeles and was placed by A. Hamburger & Sons, a department store. The seller proclaimed to have had "secured an immense quantity of the celebrated "Merritt" which we offer at about a third their regular prices." The department store ad mentioned that they were demonstration samples and, as such, they were of "superioer quality." The store priced their Merritts at $3.98 for examples with a wood case and $4.98 for leather covered wood cases. My favorite tag line from the ad is, "Typewriters for those Who Can Not Afford Typewriters."
Other than for his won company, Mortimer G. Merritt produced typewriter related inventions for Densmore and Yost. He invented non-typewriter related items within other industries, too. Eventually life's twists and turns led him to Rome, New York where he settled as a landscape architect. Read may more about Mortimer and his eventful life here.
Questions? Comments? Have a Merritt that you would like to sell? Please email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com